Photo: David Pugsley
Charleston Animal Society is teaming up with Audubon South Carolina in a brand new campaign called “Let ’em Rest, Let ’em Nest.” The campaign is designed to teach the importance of reducing human disturbance to popular beaches and coasts on which declining shorebird species depend.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds use South Carolina beaches and shores to replenish energy, find food and to hatch their young. Birds seen in coastal areas are usually in the middle of nesting or migration, many flying thousands of miles to reach their destinations. Starting in late February, migrating shorebirds begin to arrive from the south to rest on our coast. Beach-nesting birds begin their nesting process in mid-March.
“It is of utmost importance that we respect the birds during this time. Let’s show them a little southern hospitality,” said Nolan Schillerstrom, the Coastal Program Coordinator for Audubon South Carolina. “When the birds are on our beaches it’s like a layover when traveling on an airplane—they haven’t reached their destination yet and they are tired, hungry and desperate to rest and refuel.”
Any disturbance to migrating birds during their time spent on the South Carolina coast can be life threatening. Extra strength used to escape or fend off intruders, being chased by dogs or children or even scarcity of food and habitat can derail a bird’s migration and nesting.
“The best thing we can do is simply to ‘let ’em rest, and let ’em nest’ and give the birds plenty of space so they don’t feel threatened,” Schillerstrom added. “For these birds, it’s the difference between life and death.”
Not only do birds add to the quality of life and aesthetics along the coast, their presence supports local economies through tourism. A 2011 report done by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service states that South Carolina wildlife watchers spent $467 million on wildlife-watching activities with over 536,000 people observing birds around the home and on trips in the state.
“People usually want to do the right thing, and we have found that most people don’t always realize how valuable our coast is to shorebird survival,” says Sharon Richardson, Executive Director at Audubon South Carolina. “With so much at stake, letting birds rest in peace on the beach is a small act of kindness that can make all the difference for that bird, and the entire species.”
The Let ’em Rest, Let ’em Nest program was created by Audubon South Carolina and the Charleston Animal Society in efforts to decrease human-caused disturbance to declining migrating and nesting coastal birds and promote responsible dog ownership on the beach. “We want to do whatever we can to educate people on the importance of keeping dogs away from birds on the beach,” said Charleston Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore. “We represent all animals, including birds.”
The campaign aims to educate South Carolinians, along with coastal visitors, on how to create safe spaces for both birds and people. Audubon researchers ultimately hope to protect and increase threatened coastal bird populations along the Atlantic Coast.
Audubon South Carolina suggests simple ways you can help shorebirds:
- Let ’em Rest. Let ’em Nest.
- Keep a safe distance (50+ yards) from nesting and resting birds on the beach. If you notice that you are altering their behavior in any way, you are too close.
- Don’t allow children or pets to chase birds. Just because your pet doesn’t “catch” a bird, doesn’t mean the bird isn’t affected.
- Be proactive with responsible dog ownership and keep dogs on a leash near birds.
The Let ’em Rest, Let ’em Nest campaign runs through March 2018. Visit http://sc.audubon.org/coasts to learn more.